Sunday, March 27, 2005

Column on being robbed

So I was Robbed

Tibor R. Machan

The other week I went to San Francisco for a conference, parked in a
?Public Parking? place, on a busy corner (2nd and Howard), and my car was
broken into and a bunch of stuff stolen. And I am partly to blame.

Yes, I wasn?t thinking clearly. Living as I do in a neighborhood where
homes and cars can be left unlocked, I got spoiled. And all I had to do is
stop to think a minute. Once before, in the 70s, the same thing happened
to me in the same beautiful City by the Bay?then someone broke into my old
Volvo and stole a nice leather coat I bought a few months before in
Berlin. And when I lived in Palo Alto for a year to work at Stanford, I
experienced my first home burglary.

Although this is no evidence of any trend?other than perhaps of my
mistreatment by Bay Area thugs?it should have been on my mind as I locked
up my car and walked away from it. So the rest of my Easter weekend was
spent on damage control since my lap top, which was part of the loot,
contained information that could be used to some hacker to get into my
various accounts and maybe purchase things (although these are mostly
online book shops, so I doubt they will be of great interest to someone
breaking into cars).

It goes to show you that while, of course, it is the perpetrator who did
the worst thing here, the victim, too, could have acted more wisely,
prudently, and therefore is guilty of misconduct. That lesson isn?t often
heeded. I didn?t heed it much on this occasion but I promise to be better
henceforth. In many instances those who should know better and act
accordingly miss out by not realizing there are hazards all around us,
some posed by nature, some by others. The natural hazards are, of course,
more easily anticipated?California often shakes, so one can do better by
preparing for a quake here and there; Florida is hit by hurricanes often
enough so one should probably make sure one?s home is sturdy; and the
Midwest has its floods, the north its deep freezes and so forth.

But there are also too many other people who are hell bent on making life
miserable for the rest. From simple vandalism to brutal murders and
terrorism, these folks are vicious, mean people who will not be
discouraged by finely fashioned welfare programs or by the sentiments of
social workers or anti-globalists. No, they have gone corrupt. And they
will lash out and anyone can become their victim.

Yet, the victims, too, are doing something less than exemplary by not
paying attention to such people, by downplaying the reality of their
existence, by forgetting that they are out there, especially in certain
regions of the neighborhood or globe, praying on whoever is distracted,
whoever forgets about them, whoever thinks they will just go away some day
because of all the good will some people waste on them.

I am writing all of this in part so as to fix the matter in my own mind,
good and hard, not to continue with my own complacency. Sure, I had an
alarm, sure it was broad daylight, and sure in was in the middle of a
mostly civilized city on a sunny weekend day. But not only is it common
sense to take extra measures in any big city but I had personally been put
on alert. Yet I chose to be out to lunch, something I detest when I let
myself do it.

As I say, I promise. In the meantime I will continue with my damage
control, get things fixed, replace the losses, see if my insurance covers
any of it, and become better about coping with the vile ones of the world.

Oh, yes, I also went to the police to report this and the cooperation was
fantastic?well, not really. The officers?half a dozen of them sitting
there, chatting and joking and barely paying heed when I made my
report?pretty much regarded this event as something that?s solely my
problem, not theirs. I don?t know for sure, but I suspect they were more
interested in victimless crimes?drug offenses, prostitution, whatever?than
in cruising about the avenues of San Francisco, being alert so as to stand
ready to secure our rights.

All the more reason to be more alert oneself.